Another day, another berry to blog about
I picked up some aronia berries at a friend’s house on Friday. This species of native berry is very high in antioxidants, especially the black and purple varieties; it has been labeled a “superfood” for that reason. The variety we picked, Aronia albutifolia, isn’t so very high in this magical property. No matter. The red, sweet, jujube-shaped fruits were plentiful, and I got a gallon with which to experiment.
Traditionally one of the fruit sources found in pemmican, these bushes or shrubby trees normally yield clusters of pea-sized fruit in the fall. Well, MY calendar told me it was late June, so I kind of scratched my head about this a bit: can these really be red aronia berries (also called chokeberries)? It would appear that they are. Some time ago, these eastern American trees got exported to Poland and Russia and it was there that they became cultivated enough to be used widely as a juice berry, and its progeny got tweaked enough to ripen in June. Normal aronia berries, the shrub-borne black variety (A. melanocarpa) ripen much later and are entirely too tart to be eaten out of hand.
Personally, I am highly suspicious of anything that is labeled a superfood, a culinary “magic bullet” to cure all that ails a person. I also think that many people who look to a food as medicine aren’t doing the hard work necessary to maintain basic good health. Diet and exercise certainly go a long way to keep the doctor away. Eating a decent diet and getting up off the couch is just plain too hard for most Westerners: thus, let’s look for some tonic, hopefully found on my grocer’s shelf, that will offset all my couch-sitting, all those extra pounds around my middle.
I’m also suspicious of the purported health claims tagged on things like aronia berries. If it were true that eating these things magically cured you from ever getting cancer, do you really think this would be the first time you have heard about them?
With my skeptical eye, then, I turned these into jelly early this morning (with some of our grape juice and fresh cherries to help flesh out the taste). A little slice of medicine on my morning toast? Doubtful, but tasty.